Studio Lighting: Unravelling the Complexity of Multiple Lights

Experimenting with studio lighting

As one gets started in studio lighting I think it is pretty common to get over ensconced in the lighting scenarios. It is funny because everything you read tells you to start with one light until you really start getting a feel for how to shape, angle and manipulate it with purpose. Most of us end up getting lost in multiple light set-ups struggling to find proper lighting solutions. I was not any different.

Soon after I got started, I found myself using 4-5 lights in every setup and then getting frustrated with the nuclear explosion of light that was going off with each shutter click. It makes me laugh now, because at the time I was solely focused on getting light on the subject, background and in most cases everything else in the room that was touched by the mushroom cloud of illumination. I did not understand the importance of shadow, shape, depth and form.

Maturing with studio lighting takes time and patience, and always remember that each light should have a specific purpose. Understanding how to build the lighting with intent in mind takes plenty of practice and a fair number of mistakes and experimentation. Just remember to keep an open mind and never stop learning from both your successful and failed attempts. So, let’s get down to business and walk through a more challenging lighting set-up being mindful of the reasons and rational for each lights use.

In pre-planning for any shoot it is always good to have some structure and direction to the idea or concept. Some focus, no matter how vague, will always be helpful. Understand what sort of mood, feel or emotion you hope to portray and have some insight into what you want presented in your final image. In the shoot presented in this article, the overall theme was a creative portrait based on the beauty of ice, winter and cold.

This already set most of my color palette to blues, whites, silvers and other cooler tones. I also wanted to give a feeling like the model was being seen through a pane or block of ice and knew I wanted some crystal like texture incorporated. Simply put, I needed a lighting set-up that would maximize the crystalline texture, but that would also provide a flattering light for the model. Sounds simple right?

Lighting Plan
Let’s think through this lighting for a moment. In order to light for texture, one needs to light from the side so that the light skims the texture and creates shadows that give some shape, depth and form to the surface. Great! We can side light our crystalline forms. Oh but wait, if we side light the model we are likely going to see every blemish, hair or imperfection on the skin and either are going to resort to a lengthy saddle-sore ridden editing session, or have a very unflattering photo of our model.

Read full article here: Studio Lighting: Unravelling the Complexity of Multiple Lights.